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University of Alabama program preps pre-med students for rural health care careers

The state of Alabama, as does a majority of the United States, faces its fair share of issues relating to rural health care.

One of the primary issues facing rural residents concerning health care is the lack of professionals willing to take their practice and skills to underserved communities.

A new program formed by the University of Alabama, a nationally respected and well-established name in the academic discipline of medicine, seeks to address this outstanding issue.

The UA College of Community Health Sciences recently welcomed the inaugural class of a new summer program for students in pre-medical studies who wish to seek careers in rural primary care.

The Tuscaloosa Rural Pre-Medical Internship is a seven-week program that provides opportunities for students to learn about the health needs of rural Alabama residents, particularly in the fields of family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics.

The program helps students gain an insight into what a day is like in the life of a family medicine doctor. Additionally, the new rural health care-focused internship strives to enhance participants’ understanding of medical school and helps students become attractive candidates for medical school admission.

According to the university, the program is a facet of the college’s Rural Programs and its Rural Health Leaders Pipeline, which is a series of programs from high school through medical school that recruits students from rural Alabama interested in pursuing careers in the health care profession.

LaKeshia Whigham, program coordinator of CCHS Rural Programs, touched on the college’s efforts to spark students’ interest in serving rural Alabama as trained and highly-skilled health care professionals.

“It means a great deal for CCHS Rural Programs to host these students as it adds another entry point into the Rural Health Leaders Pipeline whose mission is to demonstrate programs that encourage, attract and nurture students of rural Alabama into and through programs to ‘grow our own’ rural health professionals who are leaders in developing healthy communities,” said Whigham.

“I hope the students learn that they are an invaluable resource to their communities and understand the impact primary care physicians can have on rural areas in the state,” she added. “We want these students to know our programs can be an avenue in their journey to serve rural Alabama.”

Program participants will spend five weeks at CCHS and two weeks with a family medicine physician near their hometown.

To be eligible for the internship, students must have completed four semesters of undergraduate coursework, obtained an overall GPA of a B range or higher, and scored at least a 22 on the ACT or 1200 on the SAT. Only rural Alabama residents are accepted into the program, according to the university.

Inaugural class of the Tuscaloosa Rural Pre-Medical Internship as follows:

  • Cage Cochran, of Fyffe.
  • Savannah Cook, of Meridianville.
  • Maycie Edmondson, of Slocomb.
  • Fredashia Foy, of Dadeville.
  • John Ellis Kuykendall, of Samantha.
  • Alia Malone, of Odenville.
  • Benjamin Mathis, of Pelham.
  • Gabby Murphy, of Wicksburg.
  • Ariana Ramos, of Enterprise.
  • Sydney Ratliff, of Cullman.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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